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Trump wants tax bill on his desk by Thanksgiving

Tribune Washington Bureau

October 22. 2017 10:35PM
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) faces reporters following a weekly lunch meeting with fellow Republicans on Capitol Hill in Washington in September. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo (REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo)

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump raised expectations of the Republicans' timetable for completing changes to the U.S. tax code, indicating that he expects legislation approved and on his desk by Thanksgiving.

“I want to get it by the end of the year but I'd be very disappointed if it took that long,” he said Sunday on Fox. He said lawmakers should forgo their Thanksgiving break if they can't send him a bill to sign by then.

Republican leaders have expressed optimism about the chances of passing a tax bill, saying they hope to have it done by year-end. But many have predicted that a vote might not happen until next year, particularly because of Trump's abrupt addition of several issues to their agenda.

That includes a bill to address the legal status of immigrants brought to the country illegally as children, a bipartisan agreement to stabilize health insurance markets, and a response to Trump's refusal to recertify the Iranian nuclear deal.

The tax plan Republican leaders and the White House have laid out calls for reducing tax rates on corporations from 35 percent to 20 percent, and consolidating individual tax rates to 12 percent, 25 percent, 35 percent and possibly one higher bracket for the wealthy. Income brackets for those rates have yet to be set.

A tax bill has yet to be written. Members of Congress haven't agreed on what cuts to make, or where to make them.

“There's tremendous spirit for it, not only by the people we're dealing with in Congress, but for the people out there that want to see something," Trump said. “We're adjusting so that there's no way that the middle class doesn't greatly benefit."

Trump confirmed that Republicans are considering adding a tax bracket for the rich to their plan, saying it would provide a bigger benefit for the middle class.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., indicated Friday that the extra bracket was Trump's idea. Trump acknowledged that the idea was in response to his request for more help for the middle class. "I would rather do that than do anything to hurt the middle class," Trump said.

White House budget director Mick Mulvaney downplayed adding the bracket and said it was an idea that originated in Congress to help ease passage.

"What we've just said at the White House is, 'Look, we are agnostic about that. It's not a big piece for us .... It's not what's driving this for the White House,'" he said on Fox.

Still unclear is how Republican leaders can persuade rank-and-file members who came to Congress pledging to reduce the size of the deficit to vote for tax cuts plan that would increase the deficit by $1.5 trillion over 10 years.

The beginnings of their talking points were clear Sunday, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., saying on CNN that the tax package will create so much economic growth it will begin to pay down the nation's debt. There's little historical evidence that tax cuts pay off in long-term economic growth.

"This is a tax reform bill designed to make America grow more," McConnell said.

After failing to get a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act through both chambers of Congress, Republicans need a legislative victory this year. Trump said that failure on health care will spur his party to approve a tax bill.

"I will say the fact that health care is so difficult, I think, makes the taxes easier. The Republicans want to get it done," he said.

Trump predicted that Republicans will have the votes they need on taxes, saying libertarian-leaning Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., will vote for it. Some in the White House have indicated they were worried that Paul would take a hard line against the Republican plan because it would increase the federal deficit. But the senator said Friday that he's "all in."

"I think that Rand Paul actually is going to vote for the tax cuts.... We had tremendous enthusiasm this time. Health care, I was told was tougher but it was close. I mean, so far, I would say it's not even a contest," Trump said.


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